At about half past 7:00 a.m yesterday in Brooklyn, , Imam Ahmed Ali ushered in a few dozen worshipers to Iqra Masjid for the Eid-al-Fitr prayers which marks the end of fasting of the holy month of Ramadan.
Ali said he has ‘‘never seen any Eid celebrations like this in his adult life.” Not much was put into planning the event unlike previous years. There was no call to prayer on the megaphones. The announcement was posted on social media with a link for followers to join the prayers online. The few who had the opportunity to be in the mosque, live in the neighborhood.
“If it’s a real one we would have blocked the whole road, we will go and stand on the street. We will have NYPD presence. We will have extra prayer rugs,’’said Ali. ‘‘Because when we stand for the prayers, we stand next to each other. Feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder. So even in this room we were going to fit maybe 100 people.’’
Sunday’s prayers in the Mosque were the first in nearly three months with attendees.
U.S. officials banned large gatherings including religious services to reduce the spread of the coronavirus across the country. New York State became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US with more than 360,000 confirmed cases and 23,000 deaths. But last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo eased restrictions on ‘‘non- essential gathering’’ including religious ceremonies, limiting it to 10 people ahead of the Memorial Day ceremonies.
The restrictions were eased just in time for Eid celebrations which enabled Imam Ali’s mosque to open its doors once again to worshipers.
While Ali is ensuring that the worshipers do not exceed the number directed by the state for a religious gathering, in the mosque his son leads the prayers which was streamed live on Facebook for those who could not attend.
But the coronavirus pandemic has taken away the joyous celebration of this important holy festival on the Islamic calendar. Restrictions placed on large gatherings to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in most countries have confined worshipers to their homes. Many will not be able to visit family or friends, share sweets and take part in the merry making that usually climaxes this event.
“It’s not really good, because we have fear for ourselves. We have fear for our community members. We don’t want to get sick and we don’t want to make them sick. So of course we have a fear and we are not feeling good,’’ he said.
Ali has offered funeral prayers and supervised the burial of more than a hundred Muslims who died from contracting the coronavirus. Ali acknowledged this is a difficult time, but said he has ‘‘to stand up and do something for his community.”
“I wish that almighty God bless all the world with safety, health and all the blessings we need to be successful in this world and hereafter,” he said.